cliaractcr, it seemed to us that elianges in the etlmie eompositionrnof a nation would also ehange its character, its values, itsrnidentit’. Although most of the immigration debate has beenrncarried on like a price war between two fishwives in the marketplace,rnwe realized er- earlv on that it really did not matter, ultimateh,rnwhether the new immigrants v’cre an economic assetrnorliabilitv. As I used to point out in debates, it might be possiblernto kill all the current inhabitants of the United States with arnneutron bomb and restock the land with ery talented Chinesernor Germans or een extraterrestrial colonists who would doublernthe GNP in a ear. That e’en those who favor open immigrationrnarc uncf)mfortable with such a notion reveals the comparatirnc insignificance of tlie economic dimension of the pr(jl:)]cm.rnThe debate has been carried out with numbers, parth becausernmodern Americans are suckers for anything that can be representedrnwith charts and graphs and partly because statistics onrnwelfare and taxes are safer than discussions of national identit’rnand moral principles. As it turns out, the best economic analysisrnalso supports those in favor of immigration restrictions, butrnthat, so far as I am concerned, is onl- confirmation of somethingrnwe alreacK knew to a moral certainty.rnCulture, properh defined, means the cultivation of a certainrnkind of character. Cultural institutions, therefore, arcrnthe agents that make us who and what we are. I ,ike lennson’srnI ‘1 sses you and I can say “I am a part of all that I ha e met”: thernbooks we read, the music we listen to, the pictures we look at,rnthe pravers we sav. A culture is the sum of all these things andrnman- more, including table manners and styles of dress. As anrnAmerican poet |)ut it: “The wa’ ()U wear your hat, the wa yourndrink ()ur tea . . . “rnAside from the exceptional examples of a few realK’ .successfulrnempires—of Rome, Bzantium, and Vienna—igorous culturesrntend to be particular and local, rather than generic andrnuniersal. America in the 18th centur’ was a patchwork of 13rnseparate colonies, each with its own story to tell, each with itsrnown peculiar character determined b’ the part of Britain fromrnwhich the majorit’ of inhabitants derived. Een in the oldrncountr- a Cambridgeshire Puritan had been quite differentrnfrom the Wcssex Anglican whose descendants came to Virginia,rnand both were easily distinguishable from the Scots andrnhish.rnMan states were large enough to accommodate at least tworncultures. In South Carolina, for example, the Low eountr wasrndominated by a strange mixture of English Anglicans, man ofrnwhom had arrived by wav of the Caribbean Islands, and thernFrench Huguenots; while the Upcountr’ was settled mainh brnthe Scots and Irish, who envied and hated the aspiring aristocratsrnof Chadeston. Calhoun’s great principle of concurrentrnmajorities was derived in part from South Carolina’s successfulrnattempt to make a constitution that protected the rights andrnliberties of both sections.rnPcnnsvlvania showed a similar pattern of settlement, exceptrnthat in Philadelphia the tone was set by wealthy Quakers, butrnup in the hills, where the peace-loving Quakers did not dare setrnfoot for fear of tlie Redskins whom they were content to lovernand cherish only from a safe distance, that dangerous backcountryrnwas settled bv the violent and fearless Scots-Irish,rnfollowed b colonics of more peaceable Cermans.rnIn time, man of America’s local peculiarities died out, leavingrnonly a few fossils in the form of dialect expressions and localrnrecipes. Some Midwesterncrs still sa’ pret’ncr and refer torndragon flics as darning needles. New England cooking is stillrnthe worst in the world, followed by the Midwest variant thatrnincludes the blandest dishes of the Puritans—boiled dinners—rnwhich they combined with some filthy habits they picked uprnfronr Cerman immigrants: bland sausages, boiled potatoes, andrnthe endless and inedible varieties of the Midvestcrn hot dish.rnIn the Carolinas, however, there is still a great gulf separatingrnthe civilized folk of Charleston from the wild men up country,rnand across the nation there remain broad cultural variationsrnthat mark out the Southern region from the Northeast. Butrnvast sections of the United States—most of California andrnurueh of the Midwest—were so ethniealh jumbled by thern19th-century folk-migrations that the ceased to have am kindrnof culture. Between the two world wars, Glenway W’cscottrnreturned to Wisconsin and described the conversation of hisrnfellow-passengers on a train: “They speak a mixture of severalrnkinds of English—Swedish, German, Polish, Irish—immigrants’rnchildren of the second generation having inherited fromrnall their |Mrcnts at once, all tlie accents.”rnThe melting pot, as it has been observed, did not actuallyrnwork, but Nathan Glazer’s confident description of the “unmcltablernethnics” has not survived either. Most immigrantrngroups have neither adopted the culture of the old British stockrnnor preserved their ancestral folkways. This is a pity, since Italian.rnl”reneh, and C.erman immigrants—to take only three examplesrn—come from cultural traditions that arc richer thanrnanything in 20th-century America. But culture—the characterrnof a nation—is ahvavs local, always particular. Robert Erostrndiscussed the problems of immigration and multiculturalism inrnhis poem “Build Soil”:rnM friends all know I’m interpersonal.rnBut long before I’m interpersonalrnAway ‘way down inside I’m personal.rnJust so before we’re internationalrnWe’re national and act as nationals.rn1 he colors are kept unmixed on the palette.rnOr better on dish plates all around the room.rnSo the effect when the’ are mixed on c:anvasrnMay seem almost exclusively designed.rnSome minds arc so confounded intermentalrnThe remind me of pictures on a palette:rn”Look at what happened. Surely some God pinxit.rnCome look at m significant mud pic.”rnIt’s hard to tell which is the worst abhorrencern hether it’s persons pied or nations pied.rnDon’t let me seem to say the exchange, the encounter,rnMa not be the iin]X)rtant thing at last.rnIt well may be. We meet—I don’t sav when—rnHut must bring to the meeting the maturest.rnThe longest-saved-up, raciest, localestrnWe have strength of reserve in us to bring.rnToday in this “nation i^ied” whose art at best resembles an insignificantrnmud pie, we hae little either racy or local to bring torna meeting of cultures. At the end of the millennium, perhaps,rna majority of Americans arc aeeulturated only by the massrnmedia of television, movies, and popular music, by the massproducedrndesigner-label goods they buy and consume, and byrnthe vast machinery of government schooling that every yearrnturns out the perfect ignoramuses who pose absoluteU’ nornthreat to the regime.rnJULY 1995/11rnrnrn